Stay-at-home orders during the pandemic prompted a paradigm shift in how work gets done. Many employers found employees to be as productive as before, if not more. Workers enjoyed the flexibility remote work offered. And the savings on work-related expenses like fuel required to commute, dry cleaning, and housing even amounted to a pay raise for some.
Remote workers didn’t just save money — they saved time. A survey by the National Bureau of Economic Research found workers across the globe gained 72 minutes by eliminating their commute. Employers benefitted too. A nine-month study by Stanford revealed a 13% productivity boost from at-home work.
The independence provided by remote work even led Americans to rethink where they lived. Many moved to more affordable locations, leaving city life behind. Now, some are bristling as employers mandate a return to the office.
Nearly three years after the start of the pandemic, some employers are telling employees it is time to go back to work. Office occupancy surpassed 50% for the first time since March 2020.
The desire for in-person collaboration, maintenance of company culture, and resolving issues of trust are some of the reasons behind return-to-office mandates.
Some employees welcome the shift. Isolation, mental health issues, and inadequate home technology made remote work a challenge. But many others are reluctant.
While across the board US workplaces now trend toward in-office work, company policies are mixed. Often, a hybrid option is offered.
As of March 1, corporate employees of Disney (DIS) will be required to be in the office four days a week. Starbucks (SBUX) recently mandated in-office work at least three days a week. Meanwhile, other companies like Airbnb (ABNB) made the option to work remotely permanent.
Given a continued labor shortage, workers today are in the catbird seat. Employers who take a hard line on in-office policy may find talent going to the competition. So, if you’ve been finding remote work more relaxing and productive but now face a return-to-office mandate, it’s worth leveraging the realities of the job market to negotiate a hybrid option or perhaps even a raise. If your employer is unable to accommodate you, chances are another one will.
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